The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawai‘i is Glenn Wharton’s account of his efforts to conserve the Big Island’s Kamehameha statue, but it is also the story of his journey to understand the statue’s meaning for the residents of Kapa‘au. The book was the subject of a panel discussion at NYU last March, which was covered by Ben Valentine of the art blog Hyperallergic.
Wharton spoke briefly at the event, followed by invited experts of whom Valentine notes: “One speaker I especially enjoyed was Harriet Senie [professor of art history at CUNY Graduate Center]. Senie reminded the audience that the Lincoln Memorial was made to celebrate Lincoln uniting the union, but now has become a memorial for the end of slavery. A work’s meaning changes with context, and she celebrated Wharton for recognizing this in his conservation of the statue.”
In his book, Wharton sums up the experience: “[It] offered an opportunity for people who had never participated in public dialogue to express their opinions. Some suggested that this gave them experience and confidence to take civic action on issues such as unplanned development.” Valentine concludes: “I think this gets at the core of what much of public art aims to do—to remind us of history, to become a place for community to gather, remember the past and inspire the onlookers of today.”
Read the Hyperallergic post here: http://hyperallergic.com/48103/glenn-wharton-re-painting-a-king/